Of the half million Balantas in West Africa, about 3,500 of them live in northwest Guinea, in a few villages scattered among other, larger people groups. The Balantas of Guinea are animists, having resisted for generations the pressure exerted by their neighbors to convert to the majority religion. In fact, the Balantas’ name means “those who resist,” and their obstinance regarding religion is proverbial. They are considered by their Guinean neighbors to be the lowest of the low, the supreme pagans. A common insult is to call someone a Balanta, which carries the connotation of “stubborn, obstinate, pagan, gross sinner.” (Similar to how the 1st Century Jews would call someone a Samaritan; see John 8:48.) Balantas have been known to laugh at the religious people as they bow their heads to the ground, asking derisively if they are worshipping the dirt!
The Balantas have their own language, but many of them also speak Susu, the dominant trade language in this part of Guinea. There are no missionaries to the Balantas of Guinea.
MASALU’S & ABDULAY’S MISSIONARY JOURNEY
One of our missionary coworkers, Benton, speaks Susu fluently. In November 2008 he was invited by some Balantas from a village near where he lives to go there and teach them the Bible. He did, and after several months of careful, foundational teaching, a few of the Balantas were saved!
Not long thereafter, Benton and his family had to leave the field for a short home assignment. But it was difficult to leave these baby Christians with no one to teach them. So Benton asked Masalu, a Landuma Christian, if he would be willing to go to the Balanta village a couple of times during his absence to encourage and further teach the believers. Masalu also speaks Susu well, and he happily agreed to serve in this way. Abdulay, another believer from Masalu’s village, also decided to go along. Both of these men have been following Jesus for many years, and have much of value to share with new babes in Christ!
So one day in June Masalu and Abdulay traveled by taxi and then by foot (nearly an hour of walking) to the Balanta village. The Balanta believers were thrilled to have them share and teach. Masalu started by giving their testimonies of how they came to know the Lord. Masalu then read Acts 1 in the Susu Bible, and taught the passage to them. He also shared many other Scriptures from the Old and New Testaments as the Lord led, “proving that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 9:20), and not someone else, as the neighboring religionists insist.
The Balantas shared how they had come to the Lord, and how their non-Balanta neighbors had responded to their conversion. “Why has Benton been going to your village?” they were asked.
“He has been teaching us the Word of God.”
“And you have listened to it?”
“Yes, and we have believed it, too. We have entered their religion.”
“What?! We have been with you for many years, and you have refused to join our religion. And now you have joined another religion, a foreign religion?”
“Yes, we didn’t search after a foreign religion or a domestic religion. It is the truth that we sought. Since we have seen the truth, we can’t leave it alone and hang onto a lie! A person follows a lie till he sees the truth, then when he sees the truth he lets the lie go and follows the truth.”
Their religious neighbors weren’t pleased with that answer, but what could they say?
Masalu and Abdulay had a similar testimony to share with their new friends. “We too, they try to get us to go back to our old religion. But we have seen the light. Regardless of what they say, how they insult us or shame us, regardless of the suffering we endure, we can never go back to the darkness! We can try to get others to join us, but we can never return to the darkness and ignorance.”
Before they left, the Balanta believers urged them to return before too long for another visit. Masalu and Abdulay said they would try to do that once they had finished planting their fields.
It gives us great joy to see Landuma believers reaching out to others. The Landuma church remains so small, and it is struggling due to pressure from materialism, and from a society which shuns Bible truth and shames those who seek non-traditional answers to spiritual questions. But we are encouraged that God is working in and through the Landuma church, and thankful for these little proofs of that!
PRAY for spiritual growth for the Balanta believers. PRAY that they would meet together for fellowship and prayer.
PRAY that Masalu and Abdulay would be able to return to the Balanta village for more teaching and encouragement.